Friday, July 21, 2017

Just Say Nu?

The purpose of this blog is synthesis at the Shabbat table. Please print and share, or forward or...

In memory of my father, Dennis Seinfeld, whose 12th yahrzeit was yesterday, a master of the art of friendly negotiation.
and wishing happy birthday to Pinchas in Jerusalem - until 120!


negotiatingLast week's theme ("Yours, Zealously") came with the great Hebrew phrase, bein adam l'chaveiro - anyone remember what that means?*

*Interpersonal ethics.


Here's a follow-up question to stump friends and family.

I like this question not just because it's a stumper - but because the answer teaches you something.

Try asking this question at your table: What's the etymology of "negotiate"?

Here's a clue: the online dictionaries are wrong.

They all say:


Latin for "lack of leisure," from neg- "not"  + otium "ease, leisure."

Lack of leisure? So negotiate means, "work"?

We think not.

Yes, despite what google-translate says.

We think that whoever made that up was guessing and forgot their conjugations.

(Maybe he needed the help of a Roman sentry?)

(That was less random than you think, click the link and you'll see what I mean.)

I'm sure you remember conjugations, despite your heroic attempts to forget all about them.

(And I know you've been wondering for years when you would ever get to use all that high school grammar.)

Conjugations, conjugations, what are conjugations?

Maybe this will jog your memory:


amo, amas, amat (I love, you love, he loves....)

(Yes, that's Latin.)

So the -o ending is first person singular.

What's the neg- in negotiate?

That's easy: negate, negative, etc. — it means "not" or "no".

Ergo, nego means "I say no."

Ergo, negotiation is the art of saying no.

"How much is that hat?"
"200 dollars. But for you, one hundred fifty."
"No, that's too high, would you accept fifty?"
"Fifty? You insult me. This hat is worth far more than that. But maybe I could come down to one hundred thirty, but that's my final price."
"Sorry, still too high for me, beyond my budget, thanks anyway."
"Wait, before you walk away, what is your maximum price?"
"I cannot pay you more than 75."
"75? Are you out of your mind? I might as well pay you to take the hat. Listen, I haven't had a sale all day and I need to make quota. Give me 100 and at least I won't lose too much."
"OK, fine."


The experts say, don't be afraid of a "no" - that's when the fun begins!


How do you succeed at negotiation?

First of all, don't fear it.

Enjoy it.

Great negotiation is a dialectic - thesis, antithesis, and if you stick to it, synthesis.

That's Jewish learning in a nutshell - together we arrive at a closer understanding of the truth.

Second of all, according to Dale Carnegie, there is a rule that most people fail at: know your red lines before you enter the negotiation. Know your bottom dollar, define your limits. If you don't start with your lowest offer in mind, you may end up losing.

Attorneys-at-law are sometimes called counselors. Great ones, like my father of blessed memory, are great counselors. We only see them representing their clients. What we don't see is when they counsel their client. A lot of that counseling has to do with helping their client define that bottom line.

Let's apply these lessons to relationships.

Think about a relationship of yours that's slightly or largely on the rocks.

Chances are, one or both of you are fuzzy about that bottom line.

Which of the following would you judge to be true bottom-line needs as opposed to negotiables?

I need to feel loved.
I need you to be nice to me.
I need you to answer the phone when I call.
I need to feel that home is a safe and nurturing place to be.
I need you to clean your room.
I need you to respect me.
I need to feel respected.


Now, how are you going to get to that synthesis?

Shabbat Shalom



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